It is the mission of the Irondale Public Library to encourage lifelong learning among people of all ages; to provide community residents free access to reliable information; and to make available a place for informational, cultural, and recreational enrichment by providing access to collections and services that meet a diverse array of needs and interests.
In fulfilling this mission, the Library is committed to meeting the following goals:
-using assessment and planning processes to determine community needs and interests;
-assembling, making available, and preserving organized collections of materials that meet those needs and interests;
-developing and promoting services, programs and other activities that meet those needs and interests;
-providing knowledgeable staff who are trained to assist library users in accessing and utilizing these collections and services.
The Irondale Public Library began in 1951 when the city rented a small room to house 800 books provided by the Jefferson County Free Library. The first library was located on First Avenue South adjoining a barber shop. Some of the early community supporters of the library were Mrs. Gladys Ramsey and Mrs. Myrtle Kilgore. Mrs. Emma Lee Heritage was later employed as permanent librarian on September 1, 1951. This first library was open for two hours, two days a week.
Later, in 1957 the library was moved to the right wing of the new city hall building. The city had a collection of 500 volumes that were supplemented by a rotating collection from the Jefferson County Free Library. Library hours increased to three hours, three days a week. Irondale’s first Summer Reading program began in this same year. It was called the Reading Club and was designed for school children in grades 2-8. During the summer of 1958, seventy-five children received awards for reading ten to thirty books each.
The Irondale Library was legally established on November 7, 1960 according to the code of Alabama. The first books were purchased with $1,440 provided by the Pearce Estate. The County Bookmobile still served the Irondale Library once a month. The library also utilized the lending of books from the Alabama Public Library Service. At that time, the library was open twenty hours a week.
In July, 1968 a lot next door to the city hall was allotted for the building of a new library and a federal grant was obtained to help cover the costs of the development. But federal funding was cut. Priority was given to larger library systems and regional libraries. As soon as funds were available, Irondale was first in line to receive aid. The small space in city hall was becoming too crowded for the rapidly growing library. Library staff were forced to store many of the library’s books in boxes for lack of shelf space. Harmon, Moss, Garikes & Associates: Architects, Inc. designed the new building. The 5,000 square foot postmodern structure had two large rooms divided into spaces for children and adults, heat-absorbing glass windows above the shelves, staff workrooms, restrooms and a meeting room. An open house was held October 28, 1973 to welcome citizens of Irondale to enjoy the new library space.
In 1978, Irondale Public Library joined other libraries in Jefferson County to offer no-fee services for all citizens in the county. This group, now known as Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) was formally established as a not-for-profit educational organization. This allows JCLC to apply for grants and enter into purchasing agreements on behalf of its member public libraries.
In 1988, a 3,000 square foot expansion of the library began. Three public areas were added: an adult fiction reading room, a children’s picture book reading room and a larger public meeting room with a kitchen. The staff work area was also expanded.
In 2021, IPL celebrated 70 years of serving the community. Today’s patrons have access to more than ever. IPL has six public access computers, free wifi service, printing, faxing and color copies. Patrons may use the library online to access streaming and downloadable entertainment, databases, calendars and program information. Patrons may also check out books electronically through Overdrive and Hoopla that may be read on smart phones and e-reader devices.